15 May 2018
DUP East Antrim MLA Gordon Lyons has labeled the response from Sinn Fein’s West Tyrone MP to victims’ concerns as ‘shameful’ and ill-considered”.
Commenting Mr Lyons said,
“Órfhlaith Begley’s words about reconciliation are to be welcomed. We all want a society that is settled and at peace. However, Orfhlaith’s words are only as important as her other statements, and the actions which follow. Órfhlaith, like Michelle O’Neill and Mary Lou McDonald made her first public appearance, not at an event representing everyone in her constituency, but at a commemoration for members of the Provisional IRA.
Having said she wanted to “reach out” to unionists, it is depressing but unsurprising that Sinn Fein continues to eulogise the IRA. However, Órfhlaith Begley takes it a step further and criticises unionists for being offended at such praise.
The fact that Órfhlaith Begley glibly dismisses criticism of her actions as “unionist faux outrage” encapsulates Sinn Fein’s difficulties with reconciliation.
The Sinn Fein vision is not about unionism and nationalism seeking to live together peacefully. Nor is it about the ability to understand the different constitutional preference of others. For Sinn Fein, the constitutional question cannot be separated from the actions of the Provisional IRA. That is why Órfhlaith Begley appears so mystified at the criticism she faced for - in her words – “a republican doing something republican”.
It is a view where republicanism is not just the desire to see a united Ireland, but is one which sets the IRA and their actions as the “moral compass for the rest of us”.
The SF leadership must realise that offence is caused through the continual glorification of the IRA. Not just to unionists but to a huge number of people from all backgrounds in Northern Ireland.
Given the circumstances under which the vacancy filled by Órfhlaith Begley first arose, she should be conscious of the rawness of innocent victims. To dismiss the hurt of victims of IRA terrorism as being “fake outrage” does not represent a genuine commitment to reconciliation. It is an ill-considered and shameful response.
The Sinn Fein script demands that people accept the IRA, and if unionists don’t like that then it is dismissed as faux outrage and a lack of commitment to reconciliation. Like so many other issues, progress for Sinn Fein can be on their terms only. That is not true reconciliation.”